Canada opens its house to gay athletes in Pyeongchang

When local organizers were unable to raise the funds to open a Pride House for the Winter games in South Korea, Canada stepped up and is hosting LGBT athletes.

A common presence at every Olympic Games are the individual country ‘houses’ providing space for athletes and their families. They sometimes play host to parties where the public is invited, while others are in undisclosed locations and not open to a countries own citizens who may be living in that host country.

Related: The first openly gay man to win gold at the Winter Olympics wasn’t Sam Smith

The first Pride House opened in Canada for the Vancouver Olympics eight years ago. Canadian gold medal Olympic swimmer and now out athlete Mark Tewksbury spoke to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) about the house, and his experience as a closeted athlete.

There are 14 out LGBT athletes at the games, out of more than 3,000 competitors, while there were only seven out athletes at the Sochi games four years ago. There was no Pride House in Sochi due to Russia’s law outlawing ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation’. Hopes that the Sochi games helped bring enlightenment to Russia failed to materialize.

Out athletes this year includes: Gus Kenworthy (US, slopestyle free skiing), Emilia Andersson Ramboldt (Sweden, hockey), Belle Brockhoff (Australia, snowboarding), Brittany Bowe (US, speed skating), Jorik Hendrickx (Belgium, figure skating), Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (Austra, ski jumping), Barbara Jezersek (Australia, cross country skiing), Cheryl Maas (Netherlands, snowboarding), Simona Meiler (Switzerland, snowboarding), Sarka Pancochova (Czech, snowboarding), Eric Radford (Canada, pairs figure skating), Adam Rippon (US, figure skating), Sophie Vercruyssen (Belgium, bobsled), Ireen Wüst (Netherlands, speed skating)

Noting that the Olympics are meant to be about inclusion, Tewksbury said “we’re really putting our money where our month is and creating a safe space for all.’

Numerous people who have been inside Canada House have shared a statement affixed to a wall that greets visitors. The message reads:

“Within these walls where those with olympic hearts come to gather, you are welcomed, accepted and respected.

This is your house no matter who you are or where you come from

You are at home, regardless of your sex, sexual orientation, race, marital or family status, gender identity or expression, sex characteristics, creed, age, colour, disability, political or religious belief.

All that we ask is that you be respectful of all olympic competitors, make some noise and cheer the loudest for the ones wearing the red and white maple left!

Be proud.

Be you.

Be Olympic.

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